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BY Rebecca

The Parent Trap

We all know what a hard job being a parent is.

But what happens when we have one child with special needs and another without?  Are we treating them differently?  Do the same rules apply?  Are we making exceptions for the child without special needs that we otherwise may not if things were different?  I bet these questions are pondered by parents all the time.

Here is a thought if you begin to feel guilty about making exceptions or about parenting your children differently:  Kids are different and each one has individual needs.  Strong parents will parent each child somewhat differently if they are doing what is best for that child anyway.

What should not be tolerated is letting your typical child get away with behaviors that are really unfortunate/obnoxious/inappropriate just because they have to “deal” with a sibling with special needs.  Every child needs their due time and attention to focus on their strengths and weaknesses to help them succeed in their best possible life.  Making excuses and exceptions for your typical child because you put more time into your special needs child isn’t fair for anyone.

If you notice that you may be doing that, no need to worry. Just take a step back and spend a little extra time with that child.  Give him/her some special attention. Show them how much you appreciate them and support them.  Positive reinforcement can go a long way as a tool for children.  Also, keep in mind: when a child seems like he/she is getting by and doesn’t need that much attention…beware!  There is always something going on in the inside and it’s your job as a parent to be aware of what it is. You don’t want to find out too late if he/she is having some type of problem that’s harder to repair in retrospect. This applies to children of all ages- particularly teens and pre-teens.

And of course, if you have acquired tips and tricks along the way to balancing out your parenting time between your children, share your secret!  There are so many parents who are in the same boat.  Don’t keep it to yourself- remember it takes a village…!

The Bottom Line:  Parenting does not come with a pretty little manual wrapped in a bow.  There is a lot of trial and error.  When you add the challenges of a child with special needs to the mix, there is an even bigger learning curve.  Be patient with yourself. Ask for help when you can. And try to remember that each child needs their parent’s love, support and guidance no matter what their abilities are!


Written on July 25, 2011 by:

Rebecca Zusel, LMSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, mother of 3, practicing therapist, previous School Social Worker and active Advocate, representing children with special needs and their families. Visit her website at

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